Comrades, as constant stream of articles flow from our pens and our regular contribution to the trade unionism movement continues to grow in leaps and bounds, we must not allow our voracious intellectual appetite and rapidly absorbed political activism to derail us from that which we have fought for over so many years. In all these we need to appreciate that despite the current differences, the outstanding contribution to the trade union movement was always judged in the sphere of ideas and ideology. This was when we knew our role and only role as trade unions. It appears that trade unionism has been snatched from us despite the fact that we still have so much to give and this is a grievous loss to the trade union movement. Yet we still have the power, ability and capability to save situation. This is what I address here. And I must confess that the initiative by BOPEU to have its members vote on the stalemate of who can and who cannot be party to the Public Service Bargaining Council has fascinated my view point and hence this communication to you comrades in trade union movement.
There used to be days when we knew that we should all as trade unionists be endlessly fascinated and intrigued by the national question of economics. This referred and involved national political involvement without partisanship. This is so because in fighting for the workers, it should remain a trade union view that a fierce criticism of bureaucracy and anti-patience with fudge or compromise is amongst the pillars of who we are. But to attain this, in all spheres, we must view the cultures of our societies, our mirrors, and in the case of Botswana, our social culture detest our active involvement and view it with suspicion and misplacement. This matter has been discussed by other comrades and I will thus avoid it for fear of dancing to the gallery. We find our debates misplaced, not because they are of any fundamental difference, but because we have allowed partisan politics to steal our hard earned worth. We did have unionists who later turned into politicians, but they never sacrificed us for political gains, and hence never divided our views on political lines.
Many comrades such as Comrades Klaas Motshidisi and Dr Kenneth Koma have already lectured extensively on the relationship between the national and class struggle in Botswana. Interestingly, this should in all avenues be vital in helping us come to conclusions when a need arises as in the case of the PSBC. What we are dealing with, a matter nobody wants to handle is that within the trade unions themselves are a class struggle. For example, none of the trade unions wants to admit that agreeing to a pyramid structure of wage increment, the already better paid, of certain trade unions, are compromised and not necessarily happy whilst those of the not so well paid become happy and the same is vice versa when the decision is made from another angle. These are the basics of class struggle, we need not look far as to what exactly is creating problems. This is however my bone of contention in this participation on an already existing matter.
As I have already mentioned above, I have been awakened by the very much appreciative initiative of BOPEU to engage their members on the making of a decisions, or as they have coined it “guiding the leadership”. Comrades must be congratulated on this initiative that I have seen in the local media where an sms line has been opened to vote on the three possible outcomes of the current debate. This is a first and I am not only happy that I am one of those who have been asking the role of the members in all these debate, but I am more than happy that a realisation has been made by the BOPEU leadership that only the decision of their members should be the deciding factor in moving forward. This is hardly seen by our trade unions and hence we often view the debates as personal matters. Given this opportunity, we should all, those applicable vote for our preferred decision. This is a rare opportunity, a first as I pointed out.
I am one of those who have come to appreciate that, asserting that the aim of the ongoing BOPEU – PSBC revolution was to end inequality between the trade unions, it became inevitable to address the matter from a legal view. But in the event of a legal view, not appearing to have a possibility of helping resolve the matter in the equal interest of all parties concerned a welcome development becomes that which is awash in the newspapers that BOPEU is engaging its members, those of TAWU and those of BONU to come to a final conclusion on how to move forward in the PSBC matter. Well, I would have appreciated that those of BOFEPUSU membership should also have been afforded this opportunity to vote so that we don’t just all assume that this is a sole BOPEU matter that can only be decided by BOPEU members and in the process disregarding the BOFEPUSU union based members.
But my point is not only to encourage you to vote on a best modality scenario comrades, my point of communication is that in our vote we must for a change put those political party colours aside and decide our fate as trade unionists and not politicians. The question of our political belonging and the thin line between political party activism and trade unionism has already been discussed in many other forums. We could for a change decide on what we want. There is our chance to vote, I have already exercised my own vote and I implore you fellow comrades to do the same. We have all been worried and crying that the media and the politicians have taken our space, to make decisions on our behalf, here we have an opportunity to make a decision for ourselves, in our own interest.
Leader Thabo Keaipha
BOPEU Member – Moshupa